Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth spoke to the Czech website iSport.Cz on Monday, and boy oh boy did he have some fascinating opinions to share. Talking with František Suchan, Neuvirth departed from the meek personality he’s cultivated since joining the Capitals in ’08-’09 and spoke with remarkable candor about a wide range of topics. We’d like to direct your attention to his quotes on the goalie situation in D.C.— both last season and in the future. Neuvy says he considers Braden Holtby his “weakest competition” since he’s been in D.C., expresses his frustration over always being the “bridesmaid” in net, and admits that he urged Tomas Vokoun to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Get ready to have your mind blown.
Related: Read Part II of the interview.
On his position as starting goalie on the club
It’s true that until now, I have never been an official number one. But I have played just over a hundred games in NHL. That’s nothing. I’m starting the season sure that I want to play forty/fifty games and I am really sure that I have the weakest competition (Braden Holtby) I’ve ever had. I will try to be number one goalie this season. Finally!
They say you’ve always been a bridesmaid in the crease, not the bride. You are always the second. How do you see it?
But it’s important to look at which players always were in tandem with me. At first – the Russian [Semyon Varlamov] who was always in front of me because he was drafted higher and played in the NHL sooner. It was hard to get in front of him. But in the end I played much more than he did. Last year, I had Voky (Tomáš Vokoun) next to me and I guessed in advance that he would probably get more space in the goal than I would. I came to camp ready, but it the end the season was as it was… I left it behind and I’m starting the new one ready to fight for my spot. This is the turning-point year in my life; it will decide where will I go on with my career.
In the end, neither of you (he and Voky) started in the playoffs, although you were supposed to be the Czech tandem going for the Stanley Cup…
It ended the worst it could have. But they say everything bad is good for something, and that’s how I take it. At least I had great fun with Voky. I got to know him as a person, I got to see how he gets ready, how he practices, what he does before the game and that helped me a lot. Besides we got really close, we are still in touch, I and my girlfriend visited him on Florida for a few days. We became great friends.
In the end you both got replaced by Holtby thanks to injuries…
[Vokoun and I] were both really sorry about that. We were angry that neither of us started in the playoffs, there’s no doubt in that. But that’s the life, things like that happen in sports, and we can’t do anything else than to forget about that last season. Voky is going to fight in Pittsburgh and I in Washington.
You mentioned that Holtby is the weakest competition, but he was awesome in playoffs, don’t you think?
He sure is a great goalie. But I can’t compare him to Voky or Varlamov, that’s what I meant. In comparison to those two, he played nothing in the NHL and that’s why I take him as the weakest of them three. I’m definitely not saying that he is bad, not at all. I actually like the way he plays. But he is the worst of them three, that’s all.
I’m not afraid because of how he did in the playoffs. I think that a year ago I played in the playoffs the same as he did now. They always say that the second season is the turning point, I’m curious how he will do…
He is a friend, too, of course. I actually always try to be friends with the other goalie, I don’t like to start a fight. We get along with Holtby pretty well, we played together for two years on the farm club. He was my number two there, when we won the Calder Cup twice, so we have known each other for a long time, over four years. We are not such friends to go out for dinner with each other, but we sit next to each other in the locker room and we always chat. But we don’t do “dates.”
I’m definitely doing things not to get injured again. That’s what I focused on during the summer, I’m trying to make stronger those parts of my body that hurt me before when there was a hard moment during the season. But last year it was different, I was well prepared the whole time and then a player fell on me when I was in a split. You can practice all you want, but you can’t stop getting injured in such a situation.
I was the one who advised him to leave for Pittsburgh. I know he had many offers from Russia [Editor’s note: Vokoun had been rumored to be considering joining the reformed Lokomotiv team], but I told him not to go there especially. Just when I was at his place, a few teams contacted him and I told him to go with the Pens. He has a big chance to win the Stanley Cup there. Besides, they told [Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury] he will play less, because his last playoffs didn’t really work out as well. Anyway, what’s written on paper in the summer doesn’t mean much, anything can happen during the season. That’s why I am glad Voky signed with Pittsburgh, I think he did the best thing he could. I’m sure his wife and other guys advised him as well, but maybe my opinion helped him decide as well.
That is some straight talk from the goalie who really has carried this team’s water for the past two seasons. You may not agree with his assessment of Braden Holtby, and you almost certainly find his tolerance of Pittsburgh detestable, but the kid has earned the right to speak.
Now stay tuned, ’cause the next part of this interview is even wilder.
Translated by the inestimable Karolina Martinková of hockey-on.blogspot.cz. Ian Oland contributed to this report.